18-year-old organizes Miamisburg rally to support Black community

Attendees listen on as speakers address the crowd at “A Rally for Racial Equality” at Riverfront Park in Miamisburg Tuesday night, June 23. Staff photo / Sarah Franks

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Attendees listen on as speakers address the crowd at “A Rally for Racial Equality” at Riverfront Park in Miamisburg Tuesday night, June 23. Staff photo / Sarah Franks

Organized by a Miamisburg High School Class of 2020 graduate, more than 100 people gathered at Riverfront Park Tuesday night in support of the city’s Black community.

A group of Miamisburg High School alumni, led by 18-year-old Cassidy Lakes, partnered with the Miamisburg Ministerial Association to hold the rally that gave a platform to nearly a dozen speakers at the event.

Though the issue of racial inequality is going on across the country, Lakes said, she decided to organize the rally because it needs to be recognized within small communities, as well.

“We really need this, and Miamisburg especially because it’s not a very diverse area,” said Miamisburg resident Lucille Thomas who attended the Tuesday rally.

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Thomas is originally from Cleveland, but the military moved her to Texas. Five years ago as her family was searching for a good school system for her grandkids as they moved back to Ohio, they settled in Miamisburg. The cost of housing compared to the quality of the school system was appealing to Thomas’s family.

“At the time that my grandkids started school here, I never realized that there weren’t that many Black teachers here,” Thomas said. “That’s one thing that I hope that we’ll start seeing more of because of this (current racial justice movement). This is going to make Black educators feel more welcomed.”

Other speakers included Miamisburg Mayor Michelle Collins, recent and older Miamisburg High School alumni, Miamisburg City Schools teachers, community members and a pastor from the Miamisburg Ministerial association.

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The event had two tables of literature available to attendees with information on systemic racism and donations were collected to benefit the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the Black Queer and Intersectional Collective.

Gayle Covington Fowler spoke at the rally about her experience as a Black Miamisburg resident and her son also addressed the crowd about his experience as a student in Miamisburg.

Having a son that is an athlete and a runner, Covington Fowler said, watching the February shooting of Geogia man, Ahmaud Arbery, while he was jogging felt very personal.

“It’s about, how do we continue this momentum and not make this just die out,” Covington Fowler said. “Because that’s a concern. One month from now, two months from now — are you still going to be talking about this and are we desiging change?”

About 10 Miamisburg police — some on foot, some on bicycles — watched on from the edges of Riverfront Park. The rally was peaceful and in only one instance did a counter-protester walk by the rally and shout at a speaker on the Riverpark stage. The speaker was silent until the passerby left the area.

After Tuesday’s event, Thomas said she believes the rally demonstrated what she sees is the new Miamisburg.

“It would be better for everybody, Miamisburg would benefit from diversity because they have so much to offer,” Thomas said. “But they have been so closed minded. I think now that this movement is going on, I think it’s going to open up a whole new world. I might not ever see it, but I thank God that it’s here.”

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